By J.W. “RUSS” RUSSELL
CHARLOTTE – Sister Sledge, Archie Bunker and Hank Williams, Jr. all had family ties.
Kent Bazemore is no exception.
The Atlanta Hawks guard’s family continues to grow as the Kelford native impresses basketball fans at different National Basketball Association (NBA) venues around the country.
In keeping with that family tradition, Kent’s mother, Glynis, organized a road trip that included members of the Kelford Baptist Church and other fans of ‘Number-24’ from Bertie County and the surrounding Roanoke-Chowan area.
Youngsters, some of whom attended Bazemore’s basketball camp during the summer of 2014 at Bertie High School, were excited about the trip: an excursion to Charlotte as the Hornets hosted the Hawks on March 28.
With all the injuries the Hawks have suffered as the NBA regular season reaches a close and the playoffs begin, the six foot-five inch Bazemore has found himself thrust into Atlanta’s starting line-up. The Bertie High and Old Dominion University grad is now averaging over five points per game, is third on the team in three-point field goal percentage, and is the team’s top defender.
When the Charlotte game began last month at Time-Warner Cable Arena, the left-hander quickly dropped a three-point bomb and garnered cheers from the crowd, especially the crowd in Sections 101-103.
“They need to give it to Bazemore more,” shouted DayVion Faison, a fourth-grader at Willis Hare Elementary in Northampton County, who was cheering for his hero.
In the end, the Hornets outlasted Atlanta, 115-100, but Bazemore’s performance impressed several Charlotte fans who praised his offensive and defensive skills. One voice of praise included one fan that was draped in purple and teal.
“”Bazemore don’t look like a sixth man,” the unknown fan exclaimed. “He plays like…THE man.”
Bazemore finished the night scoring a season-high 20 points, with two steals and three assists. He pestered Hornets players all night, collecting three fouls with his “Hawk-ish” defense.
Thomas Gatling, a Class of 2007 Bertie High graduate along with Bazemore, remembers playing neighborhood basketball with the now-pro player.
“He was just-plain all-around good,” Gatling said. “Nobody could block Kent’s shot.”
Arkeem Williams of Lewiston was on the Falcon track team with Bazemore and recalled how great he was in the high jump; a definite benefit in pro basketball.
“He always ran with such long strides,” Williams recalled.
Both classmates were proud of Bazemore’s performance and especially his post-game meeting with the fans. The Hawks’ leading scorer that night signed autographs and thanked everyone for making the trip.
Jaida and Alison Cherry, both from Hamilton, didn’t make the trip on the Kelford “fans” bus, but instead came by their own means.
“We just wanted to see him again,” said Alison.
The March trip marked the second time a local group has attended a Hawks game to see Bazemore play. In January, members of the Bertie High School band went to Atlanta on a field trip, and the highlight of the trip was seeing Bazemore and the Hawks defeat Oklahoma City and All-Star Russell Westbrook.
With the Hawks having wrapped up the NBA’s Southeast Division and home-court advantage as the Eastern Conference team with the best record, Bazemore’s “extended family” is sure to grow.
G’mareus Faison, who attends Central Elementary School in Jackson, best summed up the sentiments of the fans about the trip.
“It was awesome,” Faison exclaimed. “Just awesome.”